rules of the chefRating: 1 star
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel

Dakota, head chef and partial owner of the Southern Charm hotel, is worried when his partner sells his portion of the hotel and restaurant. He’s absolutely sure that the new owners, who own a chain of hotels, are going to come in and take all of the unique beauty out of the Charm and turn it into a cookie-cutter hotel. He’s sure that the representative they send down to inspect the hotel is going to find nothing but problems and things he wants to change, that he’ll have no respect for how hard the Gulf region has been hit over the last few years and how hard everyone at the charm has been working to keep it open. What he’s not expecting is to find the man so damn attractive.

Samuel is just trying to do his family proud. Everyone in his family is in the hotel business and they’re all successful. Getting the Southern Charm back in shape and making money is the first project he’s been allowed to take on alone and he’s determined not to fail. It’s a job made infinitely more difficult by Dakota’s stubborn resistance to change—and Samuel’s entirely inappropriate attraction to him.

These two men must find a way to work together and put their differences aside if they want to save the Charm. And maybe they can learn how to build a relationship while they’re at it.

This is the lowest rating I’ve ever given a book, and while I feel like this review needs to justify that so it doesn’t look unfairly given, I also don’t feel the need to go on and on about the problems in this book. Beating a dead horse has never been my style. So with that in mind, this will probably be short and (not-so) sweet.

This book was a mess all across the board.  There was little (i.e. nothing) I enjoyed about it, but probably the least appealing part was the writing style. I do not like to make assumptions about authors or their intent, so I’m not saying that this is actually the case, but the narrative reads like it was written by someone who is not a native English speaker. (That is not to say that all non-native speakers would write this way; I know several who wield the language beautifully, but that was just the impression that I got.) Grammar was poor, clarity was a thing that just didn’t happen, and common idioms and turns of phrase were used so incorrectly it was almost absurd.  For example,”We can only blow so much air to chill people off.”  The narrative jumped around, I constantly felt like I had no idea what was going on, and when I did have a clue I was rolling my eyes at how ridiculous it was.

I’d love to tell you about the main characters in this book, Samuel and Dakota, but this book was so confusing I really don’t know what to offer about their personalities. I do know that this was written as an attempt at rivals to lovers, but instead of getting that sexy tension between the characters we got schizophrenia. There are scenes where the characters are literally standing there talking about how much they don’t like each other, and then they end up kissing. It’s just ridiculous. They have absolutely no consistency as far as characterization. I could probably list a hundred character traits here and they would all apply to at least one of these characters at some point in the book. They’re worse than cardboard cutouts, they’re character goo—absolutely no shape or substance at all.

Probably the point in the story where I really got turned off though was a scene in which Dakota, convinced that Samuel was going to take everything he loved away from him, offers himself sexually to convince Samuel not to ruin the Charm. Which, I must say is actually kind of an interesting idea and had the rest of the book been well executed and the characters written in a way that would support that behavior and the scene handled with a light touch, it could have really worked. Instead, it came out of left field, felt really creepy (like until reading that I didn’t know that you could have something that felt like non-con on both ends), and severed the last thread of interest I had in this book.

At this point, I soldiered on against my better judgment and found yet more to be disappointed by. There is nothing at all resembling a resolution here. For any of the plot threads. The romance ends on kind of a shaky note, the main conflict is never solved, and really, I can’t stress this enough, but none of this made any damn sense.

Also, as a side note that’s really not important, but I just want to mention because it bugged me: someone needed to do some fact checking about life on the Gulf. I live on the Gulf and could spot the errors a mile away. And the scene where he’s making a gumbo made me faintly queasy; there’s no way the dish described would be enjoyable (and it actually doesn’t sound much like a gumbo either, but that could just be the clarity thing again).

It’s not often that I’m angry when I finish a book, disappointed, yes, frustrated, sometimes, but rarely angry. This book left me incensed. I absolutely cannot recommend this book to anyone for any reason.

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